Friday, August 29, 2014

Skip Fox, "Blood in Black and White"

“Blood” somehow always invokes, in itself, a crisis beyond itself. My blood, your blood, her blood, our blood. Bloodflow and bloodfeud. And what could convey such a crisis of red better than black and white—even the ecstatic scarlet is devoured, pulled into some sort of (always poorly comprehended) contest. Skip catches this (whether he wanted to or not) perfectly, the crisis invoked most directly in “living the cinematic trope” (a great film title: Centrifuge of Blood—in vivid B & W!). There are buzzing, blooming metatexts—a booming rush—all over this thing, all lurching from a sense of urgency, married to a sense of incompletion, the pitiful shock of en français, etc.: pointedness of ferret’s tooth, spurring on of dolphins, those non-fish in/out of water, literal arguments and tropes assuming the forms of dreams or movies, everything plunging, pulsing, pouring, everything—because of everything—stunned among visions that won’t resolve into something as simple as “immediate,” or “mediated.” (JM)

     Blood in Black and White

5:53 a.m with weather en français (Channel 3) says
it's going to rain through the end of the week, five
days ringing in the changes, wind in the rigging, my
operation always "incomplete," I walk away stunned,
amazed, while slashing the upper regions, as movie runs,
masts in dismay. En français, indeed. Fucking in a foreign
language for instance. I just want to see you again, says the blind
man. Plunging into horror of falling water. Days lost, nights beyond
intent. Arguments raking the sides of dolphins with toy-sized
spurs, sharp as ferrets' teeth. You can barely see them beneath
the many-sided darkness stuccoed with wraith light, rising
and falling from sight amid gusts as a ghastly strobe marks
their passing back into storm-tosst seas as you approach, a lens,
thoughtless, yet pregnant with attention as a bell with fruit, you can
almost make out the fine lines of blood that appear to be pulsing
from the multiple and intricate serrations along their sides, lightly
glazing their torsos until they plunge once more into wave and foam,
disappearing all over again. An old movie, a scene from a recurrent
dream, or living the cinematic trope for an ancient and unconsidered
insistence upon what does not exist in the face of the booming rush
of each day. Blood becomes us, sea on which we bob, our season's
flood, this morning strands of water falling from eave to trough
beneath, ringing with proto-syllables, plunging deeper each day.

Skip Fox has written a number of books of poetry. Next year, Lavender Ink will publish his wired to zone, a novel.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Laura Mullen, "You Only Live Twice"

Leave it to Laura Mullen to invent (or re-invent) a form whose echoic back-and-foreplay mimics an embedded medium, one set of representations nestled in another framework of representation. The shock of such perfect integration is that it makes perfect sense, times two (at least). (JM)

     You Only Live Twice

He is armed. He is harmed.
Licensed to kill and ill, knows
There’s a no in Casino, and now
There’s a drain for the rain
Running down to the old gold
Where the cat buries its scat.
Now here is the nowhere
I lent to the silent secret
Agent who was a real gent:
Him with the scar in the car,
All the cards in his hand and
The ice shaken like dice…
He is mine he is Dramamine.
I am feminine, I am nine.

Laura Mullen is the author of eight books: Complicated Grief (forthcoming from Solid Objects), Enduring Freedom: A Little Book of Mechanical Brides, The Surface, After I Was Dead, Subject, Dark Archive, The Tales of Horror, and Murmur. Recognitions for her poetry include Ironwood’s Stanford Prize, two Board of Regents ATLAS grants, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Rona Jaffe Award, among other honors. She has had several MacDowell Fellowships and is a frequent visitor at the Summer Writing Program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa. Her work has been widely anthologized. Mullen is the McElveen Professor in English at LSU and the Director of Creative Writing.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dean Ellis, Three Poems

I first encountered Dean Ellis when he took part (as poet) in an exhibition I organized of collaborative projects by writers and photographers. He turned out to be not only a poet, but a translator from Portuguese, an expert on Brazilian music (and lots of other music), and a sometime bartender at one of New Orleans’ best restaurants—an incomparable quadruple threat! (That he doesn’t mention the latter in his bio note is an insufferable display of humility.) His poems here participate in the great Romantic project of psychologizing the alien—taking the unknown, and perhaps unknowable, and registering its psychic (we’d say cognitive, now) effects in images. As in the best of Wordsworth and Keats, especially, there’s a deep investment here in the in-between, in gaps, absences, and particulars elusive of denotation—things in a mystifying middle, thrown into the world awaiting us, to be processed, even mastered. Of course this begins in a sublime and dauntingly mythic environment, reshapes itself into a discourse on (cinematic) images, takes a swerve through Graham Greene and Marguerite Duras, and ends in dreams—the movies that all of us make. Inasmuch as what we call “media” are fundamentally image machines, Dean’s poems are messages from our middles.

Cecil B., Boca Raton

Cecil B. paddles
a red kayak in fading
sunlight, heedless
of circuses and Biblical
epics. The sea is his
template, the horizon
a huckster, the current
his only commandment.
The breeze is a bullhorn,
he speaks through it
with sinewy wrists turned
against the flickering
sky. Jodhpur oars tread
the ingénue tide, breaker
hordes approach, await their
cue. The sea cleaves,
his breast swells with
vernal gusts. He sees the stars
concealed behind a curtain
of clouds, the Creation
that will never be His.

Cinéma Vérité, a Glossary of Terms

Soft focus: he distrusts
memory and relies on the
memory of memory.

Wide angle: the breadth
of his longing attenuates
the gaps.

Long shot: she tumbles
into the gaps and is
nurtured there.

Jump cut: he awakens
to time and its cruel

Tracking shot: she refuses
to exit the panorama
of his vision.

Mise en scene: what one
sees is what one sees,
and isn't.

Denouement: there is no
such thing as resolution,
only last scenes.

Upon Falling Asleep While Reading The Quiet American Or Maybe While Watching The Film Version Not The Original But The Superior Remake With Michael Caine Or Maybe It Was The Lover By Duras Or Maybe It Was The Film Version

Once I rode a rickshaw
with Graham Greene he
told me, as the driver's
vertebrae creaked forward,
and groaned a doleful
chorus with the wooden
wheels, you suffer as much
as the driver, you see, because
you are his burden and he
yours. It took me years
to learn this, he said,
and I am still learning. But
why then, I asked, do you
still take rickshaws? Because,
he said, they need my business
and I am too lazy to walk. And
then I awoke from the bubble-
wrapped dream, and tore the
cellophane from my eyelids,
and knew, quite unknowingly,
that I would never ride
a rickshaw, or know anyone
who ever knew anyone who
knew Graham Greene.

Dean Ellis is a writer and translator living in New Orleans. His work has appeared in The New Orleans Review, Bloodroot, Another Sticky Valentine, the St. Petersburg Review, the online series Working Stiff at and the KGB Bar Lit Magazine. His translation (with Jaime Braz) of Jacinto Lucas Pires' novel The True Actor was published last fall by Dzanc Books. He hosts the radio programs Tudo Bem and The Dean's List on WWOZ-FM 90.7 in New Orleans and online at

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Rita Costello, Four Poems

It’s no accident that Hank Lazer and David Saffo both built their poems with reference to phenomenology, which works its way through bodily processes towards a world that is never quite immediate, or never quite accessible as immediate. (As Merleau-Ponty put it, “Since perception is the ‘flaw’ in this ‘great diamond’ [he’s alluding to lines of Valery’s that translate ‘My repentance, my doubts, my constraints / Are the flaw in your great diamond’], there can be no question of describing it as one of the facts that happens in the world, for the picture of the world will always include this lacuna that we are and by which the world itself comes to exist for someone.”) The body—our first vehicle, but also the source of our first alienation—is constantly reaching, or, more hopefully, grasping; yet it is thrown into the world and history already decomposing, a vastly imperfect correspondent. We’ve spent that history, and we spend our lives, searching for ways of mediating this imperfection: cuneiform writing, the abacus, the telescope, the typewriter, the Stratocaster, the silicon diode, the sonnet, the M-16.
Rita Costello is wonderfully attuned to this sense of ongoing, embodied mediation. Her poems here invoke all sorts of tools, all of them fallible, all in circulation around the body or bodies, all of them somehow in on a Nietzschean joke of ceaselessly proliferating perspectives echoing into a void. Or maybe that’s me—Rita, I think, shows greater cheer and more hope than I do regarding the ways in which we build ourselves into the world—that’s what we want, to be sure—with our instruments, our vehicles, our media. (JM)


Back in the days of the daisy-wheel
typewriter—spinning out dervish dance
letters—we ruined our eyes in shop-class pinching
fingertips like tweezers down on singular
shapes of ten-point type. And, with crane-
like motions, we rescued letters from the alphabet
tray lowering them slowly, pseudo-steady, down
into lines of meaning, or at least as much sense
as seventh-graders can make from such great
resources as letters and language, which is probably less
than an infinite number of nimble-fingered monkeys. I
imagined sometimes, Sesame Street style, the steel-carved
A’s and T’s and D’s atop their firm-squared bases
as buildings—the model city, the sky-scrapers I
would someday walk between, collecting
the meaning of the world from their surface, like an
ampersand pressed, long and hard, into the skin
of an index finger, at least temporarily marring
the genetic code, the identifying lines that in a room-
ful of ink and sticky-rolling presses marked everything
as personal. Those nights I dreamed a hand
of sentences—firmly centered and set in the once silver
circle now rolled flat blue with ink—and stamping
out the lines even the most novice palm-reader
could interpret clearly.

     on the release of Adolf Eichmann’s prison writings,
     February 2000

Confronting an actual Eichmann, one had to resort to armed struggle and, if need be, to ruse. Confronting a paper Eichmann, one should respond with paper.
Pierre Vidal-Naquet

Thin papers amass bulk only      by unimaginable
numbers      stacked—fighting numbers
with numbers, innocent     victims alike.
Thirteen-hundred pages still fit in a box      too small
for a single body. It would take a lifetime to write
a mass grave, a thousand blue pens in place of blood.

     essentially the same

mirrors and copulation are abominable,
because they increase the number of men
—Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”

I blame my birth on propaganda, not the sort to entice
blonde breeders to the Reich, but that good old American right-
eousness in exposing the faults of others. My mother     in the third
grade, good Catholic girl suddenly made impure with the realization:
If we’re saying this about them, what are they saying about us? I imagine
to get there she must have seen her own world in that other; how else
could such transubstantiation occur: one moment trusting     blind
faith in all authority, then bodiless, nation-less, questioning of all
existence. The body is only a consumer of bread     as malleable as the funhouse

mirror. The world splits to so many mirrored images, that all our poles
are fractured     multiplication. Humanity as a whole meaningless against us
and them. Old as shadows in Greek caves or two-headed creatures      broken. We
are never solid. Searching only brings us closer to the mathematical eyes of the fly
as the only way      to see ourselves—here a people, here a thought, here a war—and all the fly

is attracted to. Don’t we all want to think of molecular science as mythology? My
atoms will never, have never been part of another, of you, of the brick wall
I keep running into, arms thrust out, fingers splayed and cracking with the
force of speed not really mine at all. But the propaganda is all shifting
to seek stillness anyway; borders that do not bleed and eyes so dead
all perception melds to singular substance: the mass that raises the bath-
water is never part of the water. The thoughts of children are always swayed
by educational filmstrips. This bread is my body, take me into yourself and
believe, a body is a temple, sculpted, freestanding, closer-my-god-to-thee architecture.

     Paradelle for Grandma, Just Moved to Assisted Living

When her mind went, she couldn’t remember
when her mind went. She couldn’t remember
the wind echoes ripples across the water.
The wind echoes ripples across the water.
The water remembers her when she couldn’t;
across the went-mind, wind ripples echo.

She could not remember the day they took her;
she could not remember the day, they took her
away from the home where deer awoke her mornings.
Away from the home where deer awoke her mornings,
from where the deer took her day. They remember
mourning away the home; the her she could not awake.

Her mind stayed home, though her body moved
her mind. Stayed home, though her body moved
the mountains, her eighty acres, three ponds, and
the mountains—her eighty acres, three ponds—and
her body moved though the eighty mountains and
her mind stayed home: her three-acres pond.

The mornings moved her home, her echoes went though
the deer, the day, her three ponds, her—remember
eighty?— acres, mountains, mind. She awoke
water. She couldn’t remember the ripples and where
they took her wind across, when the body
could stay home, not away from her mind.

Originally from New York, Rita D. Costello has lived all over America (and China). She is Director of Freshman/Sophomore English at McNeese State University and co-editor of the anthology Bend Don't Shatter. Her work has appeared in journals such as: Glimmer Train, ACM, Baltimore Review, Fireweed, Pank, and Hawai’i Review.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

David Saffo, "like Mom's) chocolate-coated nuggets"

What is going on in Tuscaloosa?! On the heels of Hank’s fine citations of The Phenomenology of Perception comes this dizzy(ing) multi-tasker from David Saffo. It’s a miracle, man. So many questions: all dead, or only mostly dead? which way is up? who’s the guest speaker? “for” whom? is it possible to make only a small section of my screen rotate 360 degrees? what constitutes “a good hour”? Alas, we may never know the answers to any of these questions, but clearly the (physical) notepad is the medium of the future in Alabama, and boys, we salute you. (JM)

David Saffo teaches English at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hank Lazer, Three Poems

The hand-made chapbook is supposed to give us privileged access—not unmediated (we’re not that naive), but privileged—to those distinctive processes we suppose “take place” when a poem comes into being. Especially as compared to mass-produced commodities like the major anthologies, they feel handheld, unplugged, analog. Hank Lazer’s three hand-written notebook poems are a good place to start in thinking about the way poems get mediated on any page. (And indeed, they are all meditations on that kind of mediation.) Each framing (and framed by) a quotation from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (trans. Donald Landes), the poems foreground a variety of challenges to transparency: first, there’s the opacity of Merleau-Ponty’s prose; then there’s the elliptical complexity of Hank’s language in response to Merleau-Ponty; and there’s the additional challenge of the hand-written language that is deployed in ways that subvert conventional left-to-right reading. Finally, there’s a multiple resistance in the digital representations as we crank our heads around trying to get it all in. (Take my advice: download these jpegs and open them in a program that allows you to rotate the texts—or, if you’re strong enough, you could simply pick up your computer and rotate it to read them. JM)

Hank Lazer has published seventeen books of poetry, including Portions (Lavender Ink, 2009), The New Spirit (Singing Horse, 2005), Elegies & Vacations (Salt, 2004), and Days (Lavender Ink, 2002). In 2008, Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays, 1996-2008 was published by Omnidawn. Lazer’s seventeenth book of poetry N18 (complete), a handwritten book, is available from Singing Horse Press: Pages from the notebooks have been performed with soprano saxophonist Andrew Raffo Dewar at the University of Georgia and in Havana, Cuba.
Recent features on the Notebooks appear in Talisman #42 (, including an interview conducted by Marjorie Perloff) and Plume #34 (, including a conversation with Glenn Mott, and an mp3 of a performance with Andrew Raffo Dewar).
Audio and video recordings of Lazer’s poetry and an interview for Art International Radio can be found at Lazer’s PennSound website:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Chantel Langlinais Carlson, Two Poems

Chantel Langlinais Carlson writes, “Both of these poems were written using a quill (in response to a cfp I saw that was looking for writing that did away with 'newer' forms of technology/writing implements) . . . it proved a much more challenging process than I imagined, but it also made for an interesting writing experience! It looks easier in the movies.” (It’s worth noting, as a matter of principle, that everything looks easier in the movies.) Anyway, I asked her to send jpegs to document the whole process, and the result makes me very happy that Chantel (rather than I) undertook this effort to get back to goose-based technology. (JM)



Past thyme and rain on the window’s
stillness, a woman’s gaze
turns to blue. Quilled in blue seeped through
to vein the blood with ink
now gone dry. A woman’s gaze turns
to her skin, Rorschach forms
islands and daggers and ships sail
across life lines once held
in a gypsy’s palm. The bourbon
moon never tasted so
good. A woman’s gaze turns to shut
ticks and stocks of time-crossed
memory. Drawn feathered. Drawn blue.


My genius tired of beat boxing
in the corner, choking
on consonants I never caught.
He pulled cobwebs off his
eyelash and blew them into air
forming feathers that took
flight. I, too busy to notice,
stepped over them—now I
am ready—but never was good
at catching fireflies.
To wake the lost ghost kidnapped by
inconsistency, I
write. The corner shadows wisp–then—
only silence answers.


Chantel Langlinais Carlson received her Ph.D. in Modern Drama with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2007. She is currently an Instructor of English at Texas Christian University, where she teaches modern drama, poetry, film, and composition. Next Stage Press recently accepted her one-act play, The Exhibit, for publication. Her poetry chapbook, Turning 25, was published in 2011 by Nous-zot Press. Her poetry has appeared in Ekleksographia, damselfly press, The Southwestern Review, and The Louisiana Review, and her critical work has appeared in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Journal and the Louisiana English Journal.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jesse Poimboeuf, Ten Visuals

Jesse Poimboeuf has made a great reputation as a multi-media and performance artist here in Lafayette, LA. (And in New Orleans; and elsewhere. Get him to tell you about his raccoon suit someday.)  But his whole enterprise strikes me as more mental than media—what’s at hand is made to serve (even though it also helps construct) his vision. I spoke with him about some of the ironies involved in reducing his (and others’) constructions to a flat digital format, but there’s also a provocative sense of competing perspectives (as in Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” maybe) as the eye tries to seize what the bytes chew up and spit out flat. I can’t provide instances of his performance work here (although I do have a fine painting that he did of a performance done in collaboration with me reading poems), but here are four representations of some of his constructions in three dimensions. (JM)

"Valentine Baby"

"Valentine Baby w/ Japanese Mask"

"Eye / Heart / Hand"

"Eye / Heart / Hand" (verso) 

A terrific collagist, Jesse often presses multiple media towards effects comparable to collage—his acrylics, charcoals, watercolors, oils, pencil, crayon, etc. establish distinct spaces, directions, perspectives, even timeframes, as if each medium insisted on its own dimensionality calling out to, but maintaining distinction from, all the others. Here are four examples. (JM)

"Surrounding" (Charcoal/Acrylic/Pastel/Colored Pencil/Canvas)

"untitled" (Acrylic/Graphite/Dye/Paper)

"Curtain at the Beginning" (Acrylic/Pastel/Charcoal/Dye/Colored Pencil/Paper)

"untitled" (Acrylic/Ink/Watercolor/Charcoal/Paper)

So what happens when an artist this engaged with sensuous media and materials goes digital? Jesse’s been working lately using an iPad app (Brushes) he discovered online in an article treating its use by David Hockney (see It’s wonderful to compare these (I’ll upload three here) with Jesse’s otherworldly representations of wild birds in acrylics, colored pencil, and pastels (see, for instance,; note, especially, his "Crazy Jay Blue"; JM).



I can’t help but comment on this last one, “Ruined Pixels.” There’s so much in it about working in a new medium, or working between and among media, and, again, the sense that what emerges (from the materials, from the machine) is fundamentally mental. I love the electric finger, poised over the (musical?) keyboard, and the way everything seems eventually to turn to waves. (JM)

"Ruined Pixels"

Jesse Poimboeuf was born and grew up in New Orleans, and has also lived in Lafayette (Louisiana), Denver, and New York. He now resides in the country on Bayou Teche near Arnaudville, northeast of Lafayette. He's taught Fine Arts at the University of New Orleans, Loyola, Tulane, Fordham, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He and his wife Nancy own the Kitchen Shop and Pistache in Grand Coteau, LA.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jerry McGuire, Please Note: Erratum

I messed up the line-spacing on Lesle Lewis’s poems on the 14th, but I believe I’ve got it right now. Please have another looked at those beautiful poems now that I’ve fixed the spacing. And Lesle, please forgive me: I’m teetering, like Belushi’s samurai, on the edge of self-destruction for this editorial horror! (JM)